Literacy Milestone: The Joy of Regular Library Visits

LiteracyMilestoneAI must confess that although I have always loved libraries, public library visits have never been a regular part of my daughter's schedule. Oh, we've certainly visited over the years. We did some toddler storytimes when she was little, we'd go and read picture books at the nearby branch whenever we were at the hospital where my husband works, we'd pop by the branch that was next to a playground as a two for one outing, etc. We'd start out each summer vacation by bringing home bags of library books. 

But the truth that must be acknowledged about our book-privileged life is that we always had plenty of books at home. This was because of my blog (I was a round one judge for the Cybils in fiction picture books twice) and because I am a sucker for buying books, from the Scholastic flyers to freestanding bookstores to Target to Amazon. This abundance of books meant that we never really needed to make library visits part of our routine. They were more something we would do sporadically when it happened to be convenient.

But this fall, I finally found a way to make visiting the library a regular part of our routine. I signed my daughter up for a weekly art class. The class is in the same shopping center as a beautiful new library branch. It's just a hop-skip-and-a-jump between them. This branch, which I hadn't visited until last month, is fairly small but supremely kid-friendly. I cleverly scheduled her class so that the library branch would be open for nearly an hour following the class. 

AtTheLibrary_FotorAnd now: we have a routine.We park across from the library. We return the books that we are finished with. I walk her over and leave her at the art studio. I walk back and sit in the library and read for an hour. Then I pick her up and take her back to the library, where she greedily pulls dozens of books off the shelves and hands them off to me to carry. Then she finds a cozy spot (this branch has several) and reads until I drag her away because we are ridiculously late for dinner. 

The books that she is choosing, not incidentally, are mostly books that she's already read. She is finding her friends on the shelves and bringing them home. Last week she grabbed a half dozen Diary of a Wimpy Kid titles. The week before it was every single Babymouse or Squish title that was on the shelf (several of which we already had at home).  She also likes to grab picture books about which she is nostalgic, like Mo Willems titles, even if we own those, too. She picked a picture book that her class had read last year as part of Project Cornerstone, and a couple of early readers. She picks graphic novels that she's read but that we don't own (like the Amulet series, and the books about Cleopatra in Space). Sometimes I'll suggest something that she hasn't read that I think she might like. She'll shrug and toss it in, but these titles are likely to go back unread. I am fine with this. 

And here's the best part. We go home and she becomes a reading machine, plowing through the books that we brought as though someone was going to take them away. It's hard to even get her to eat dinner or go to bed. Piano practice is a lost cause on library nights. I, of course, am fine with all of that. 

We are rather late to having a real library routine, but I am celebrating it now. I'm more willing to put titles on hold now, too, because I know that we'll be going in within a week. I'll be able to pick them up without making a special trip. My already devoted reader of a daughter is reading more. I get to spend time browsing the shelves and sitting reading myself. It's all good.

If you would like to get your kids to the library more, I recommend scheduling some other regular activity to take place near to the library if you can. The power of building things into your routine cannot be over-estimated. Gretchen Rubin and Charles Duhigg would be proud.

How about you? Have you been successful in making public library visits a part of your regular routine? 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 7: Reading Conferences, #FreeRangeKids + Happy Kindergarteners

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: #BookLists, #Curation, #Curiosity, #Cybils, #Giftedness, #HigherEd, #iGen, #introversion, #JeanTwenge, #MentalHealth, #Motivation, #parenting, #play, #reading, #SocialMedia, #teaching, kindergarten, library storytimes, and reading conferences.

Top Tweet of the Week

BookWhispererThe Unexpected Power of Conferences | HS has single accountability measure for students’ choice reading: talking to them about it.

Book Lists + Awards

to Help Little Kids Deal With Big Emotions - from

15 Children's Books About Courage and Bravery, w/ plenty of from | [Link to The Book Whisperer]

The Early That Will Turn Your Kids into Voracious Readers | from | + more

Ten great titles for making the leap to from , w/ tips for to help kids

Cybils-Logo-2018-Round450pxA Heartfelt Goodbye (and Thank You!) shares some updates on this year's organizing team, including my own stepping down as evangelist + guru. Terry will ably take my place

Events + Programs

Text messages to can help boost children's skills, but the type of messages + frequency matter,

I love this program: Helps Love to Read by providing kid-friendly spaces in primarily black barbershops around the country |

This year's selection (10/25) is Maybe Something Beautiful from . suggests some related book activities:

Reasons I despise , by | e.g. "Why are we promoting something we’re against (banning books) instead of promoting something we are FOR (the freedom to read)?"


GameChangerHow can and encourage kids to WANT to read? recommends books by + + shares tips for creating an environment that celebrates +

If you start the year by telling kids about their rights as (, abandoning books, , etc.), it takes the pressure off + helps launch


Today's Aren't Who You Think They Are : Many are reports

Liberal-Arts Should Teach Grad Students How to Make a Living, instead of "cling(ing) to this lofty, elitist opinion that it’s sinful to discuss any remuneration"


SecretLivesOfIntroverts12 Signs That You Have an 'Introvert Hangover' (Yes, It's Real) by | I found several of these to be spot on (esp. 1, 2, and 9) | [Link to Secret Lives of Introverts book]

Parenting + Play

The Perils of the Child Perfectionist by Jennifer Breheny Wallace | " play a central role in a child’s development of perfectionism", which can in turn lead to more serious issues

Must-read: How to Our Way to a Better - + suggest in that kids' w/out adults is a solution to our current self-selection into (+ is good for )

FreeRangeKidsRaising In An Age Of Is Tough, but are trying | | [Link to Free Range Kids book]

: 5 Proven Benefits Of : summarizes new recommendations | , + more

Demand that Be a Happy Time and Place: A “Garden for Children!” via | "adults who try to say children should be accomplishing more at an earlier age are way off base"

Schools and Libraries

What I really want to know from my child’s on night. Hint: It has nothing to do with , by +

InnovatorsMindsetThe Importance of and in | " should become a place where curiosity is developed in individuals no matter what factors have led to its decline" [Link to Innovator's Mindset book]

3 Important Areas to Shift the Conversation in | I especially like "Weakness-Focused to Strengths-Based" |

How are failing working parents (days off, meetings during school day, no before school care, etc.) — though some are helping

Crack Down as More Cut Class -

You’re Unlikely To Find More Useful Articles To Help With Than These Two… says

PrimedToPerformHow to Motivate Frontline Employees by optimizing , , and while reducing pressure by + | | via , who suggests applying this to [Link to Primed to Perform book]

To Boost Higher-Order Thinking in , Try a | | Help them understand, analyze + evaluate information quality

Yes! This: Let’s Preserve the Complexity of Our Icons – "It is truly an injustice to our to assert that people can only be inspirational if they are essentially perfect."

Three essential tips for of children from via | Start by expecting the unexpected

Don't make vast decisions with half-vast | "If we can’t trust our data to tell us what’s going on in ..." responds to recent reporting on highly inaccurate statistics

The salary slide: pay is stagnating, new report from finds via | In no state are teachers paid more than other grads

"The status of hasn’t kept pace with its growing social significance" + the level of responsibility (like teaching character) we give UK's , says

3 Ways to Introduce into the | specialist shares tips for winning over + to this new via

AMONG THE ANKLE BITERS by . Or How I Learned about Helping Out with

Screens and Social Media

ReaderComeHomeMatt is thinking about Deeply in Spaces, responding in part to 's recent article about impact of | I shared some thoughts in the post comments [Link to Reader, Come Home book]

Interesting: Logged off: meet the teens who refuse to use | via | Some among + are turned off by the negatives + scaling back.

I totally agree with that The Key to Peace on is the (called snooze on FB) | Of course I haven't muted YOU, my friends + family members. But you can't tell for sure, can you?

The World Isn’t as Bad as Your Wired Brain Tells You - explains some of the "workings of our + ". Then again, he also said not to share this article on

Is Toxic for Teenagers' ? - comes down on the side of yes, citing , + says that the doubters are ruling out fuller understanding | I agree


Cool! Introduces free after-school clubs for 3rd-5th grade + is expanding program for 6-12 graders |

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Literacy Milestone: Writing a Newspaper

LiteracyMilestoneAPretty much since she knew what writing was, my daughter has loved to write. As I've noted before in these posts, she keeps notebooks everywhere. This week, however, she started a new writing project. She is creating her own newspaper. So far there have been two issues, each about five pages long. The issues have each included:

  • Two pages of ads
  • One page of comics
  • One page of news
  • One page of miscellaneous (one day it was movie listings, the other day it was a description of a skit)

The continuing news story has been about the "Eerie Fire". The headline for issue two was "Eerie fire Rages on!!!!" The situation is quite desperate. Many people, including babies (!) have been killed, some by smoke. The guilty party, Thomas, is in jail, complete with a picture of him behind bars with a sad face saying "I started it". If you have a somewhat dark sense of humor, as I do, these heavily illustrated stories are hilarious. And yes, you can tell she lives on the wildfire-prone West Coast, and that she's absorbed more news stories about fires than I realized. 

The ads have ranged from hair salons to restaurants. They include phone numbers and email addresses, and lists of services. And pictures, of course. The comics (while not as funny as the stories about the fire, if you ask me) are about things like parenting (poopy diapers, etc), drumming, and ninjas. The movie listings are, well, let's say unconventional. 

She is doing this largely on her own. She has asked me to help with copy-editing, mainly correcting spelling, and she has requested some input as she works on the comics. She has plans to continue producing new issues at least twice a week for the rest of the year. (Though this seems unlikely to me, as other projects will arise.) 

Don't you love it when kids get obsessed with a project? Especially a project that involves something creative, like writing or drawing (or both, in this case)? I know I do. I can't wait for the next issue. I'm especially curious to see what will be happening with the Eerie Fire, and Thomas's jail time.

Did your kids ever produce their own books or newspapers?

Thanks for reading! 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute: KJ Dell'Antonia

Book: How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute
Author: KJ Dell'Antonia
Pages: 320
Age Range: Adult Nonfiction (Parenting)

HappierParentI rarely review books for adults on this blog, but KJ Dell'Antonia's new parenting book How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute inspired me to say a few words. I've read and enjoyed a number of Dell'Antonia's articles over the years, and so was interested to hear her voice in book form. I've also been on something of a personal quest to be happier in my own parenting, so this book had the potential to be a good fit.

I was not disappointed. It seems that Dell'Antonia, working (journalist) mother of four children, has been on a similar quest for quite a while. She read extensively on parenting, talked to a variety of parents and other experts, and conducted a survey. Her emphasis for the book is on changes that parents can make to their parenting styles, hacks of various sorts, that will make the parent happier. And happier parents will, she believes (as do I) ultimately lead to happier kids. 

Dell'Antonia cites a number of books that I had already read and enjoyed, like How to Raise and Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haimes, It's OK Not to Share by Heather Shumaker, and The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. I felt early on in the book that KJ and I we were philosophically aligned, and I marked a number of other books for future reads. I also got a kick out of the fact that two of the parents she cited were people that I knew (Marjorie Ingall and Jason Kotecki), at least in the sense of having met them in person and shared a meal. 

Anyway, How to Be a Happier Parent consists of chapters dedicated to each of nine parenting areas that Dell'Antonia and the people she talked with have found to particular sources of unhappiness or stress for parents. She starts with getting everyone out of the house in the morning and progresses through things like enforcing chores, mediating between siblings, and monitoring homework.

Her basic approach is guided by a set of ten mantras for happier parents that she explains early in the book and then repeatedly refers back to. For instance: "What you want now isn't always what you want later" (you have to take the long view when doing things like enforcing chores, even when being the fun, easy parent is more appealing in the short run). I especially liked "You do you", as in, you don't have to be the Pinterest-perfect parent, your family can do what your family likes.

I highlighted passages in basically every chapter (except for the one on siblings, which I skipped because my daughter doesn't have siblings). In truth, a lot of the recommendations in the book consist of things that I already believe, like staying as far out of your children's homework assignments as you can and using natural consequences to teach them to pack their backpacks properly (by refusing to bring something to them later). But there's a difference between believing philosophically in doing something and actually doing it. And for me, at least, there's value in repetition and the validation of hearing advice that you in your heart want to hear. (Like "you do you.")

The piece of advice that stood out the most for me, and that I feel like could actually change how I do things, was regarding discipline. The general idea is to treat discipline not so much as enforcement but as teaching kids how to enact certain behaviors. And to remind yourself that it takes kids a long (long, long, long) time to learn things sometimes, so you just have to keep repeating yourself over and over again. You should try to do this without beating yourself up over having failed to get this across in the previous 100 times, which will help in staying calm. Here's a section of the text on this that I highlighted:

"“but you’re not here just to stop him in the moment.” You’re here, she says, to teach your child to make the right choices for himself, so offer that option first, even if it seems as if he should know better by now. Some things take a lot of saying...

That whole sequence of connecting, teaching, and then, if necessary, ending a behavior is one you will repeat again and again, especially with a younger child, so make your words positive ones, even if the behavior is anything but. “If I’m going to say it a hundred times,” says Faber, “I figure it might as well be something I want my child to learn.”...

That kind of repetition is where a lot of us fall down. Consistency is hard, and it’s especially difficult when we’ve become so accustomed to an on-demand world...

When we accept discipline as a long-term teaching process, it gets easier. Instead of thinking, I’ve asked him hundreds of times to do this and he still doesn’t do it, parents who are happier in their disciplinary role think something more along the lines of I’ve asked him a hundred times and I’ll ask him a hundred more and that’s how we get there." (Chapter 7)

I'm going to try to remember this. I think it will help. And really, that's why I read parenting and other self-help type books. I'm looking for those ideas that resonate with my own personal philosophy and that might, if implemented, help in some way. 

So, even as someone who has read a lot of books on related topics, I found How to be a Happier Parent useful. This book is not for the mother who is looking for validation in her quest to get her child into Stanford at all costs, or for the father trying figure out how to push his lazy child to practice more so that he can get that football scholarship. (Though these parents could learn a lot if they did read it.) But if you are a busy parent and you are looking for some tips on taking a deep breath, slowing things down, taking off some of the pressure and enjoying your family more, this is the book for you. Highly recommended! 

Publisher: Avery  
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 31: New #Cybils Logos, #ReadingAloud, and #Classroom Community

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookAwards, #BookLists, #bullying, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #HigherEd, #introversion, #JoyOfReading, #MentalHealth, #play, #ReadAloud, #SchoolLibraries, classroom communities, digital media, grants, project-based learning, and teaching.

Top Tweet of the Week

Thinking Outside Categories in Suggesting Books for Kids by |

Book Lists + Awards

Cybils-Logo-2018-Round450pxHey there, bloggers, authors, publishers + fans: The 2018 Cybils Logos are now available for download + use. Promote high quality, kid-friendly children's and YA books by cheering for

It's here! The 2018 Call for Judges: + Book Bloggers / Reviewers (regardless of platform) are encouraged to Come Be a Part of the Fun! | I love the colors of the new logo

2108 – Part 3 | roundup from

QuickestKid30 Incredible for 2nd and 3rd Grade, another

Super-Cute Handmade Mini Bookmarks (beaded circles on top of oversized paperclips): A Craft to Promote ! w/ of reading-focused lit from

Events, Programs, and Research

The 's initiative awards big grants, many to California , to improve the graduation + success of African-American, Latino and low-income

A study finds promise in project-based for young low-income children -

“Act more like an extravert” intervention has “wholly positive” benefits for many, but there are drawbacks for , reports – I do not even get why these interventions exist at all |

Growing Bookworms

HarryDirtyDogThe Magic of the Read-Aloud | At Heather Miller offers tips for + to improve skills, w/ some suggested

A call to from "This year, let books and how they reflect your students’ lives and interests be your guide. Use books to respond to your students and to push their thinking forward"

No matter our background, and no matter our kids’ ages, books > programs. Connecting with a good book is much more likely to produce than drilling skills | on online

Higher Ed

Interesting OpEd by Adam Grant | Those Who Can Do, Can’t Teach. The best are not the experts, but those good at interpreting + communicating material

How to pick a course responds to @AdamMGrantOpEd about vs. in terms of quality. Willingham says to go where is the primary concern

Don’t Close the Book on Books - @Danny_Heitman urges to make more visible on campus, in hope of encouraging more


Catch up on happenings in today's Fusenews , , + more

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

ReaderComeHomeSkim on digital media is the new normal. The effect on our brains + society is profound | Maryanne Wolf | "We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate” reading brain" [Link to Wolf's book on reading in the digital age]

Amazon's children’s book subscription opens to all in the U.S. | | I could see this working for some, and they do let customize the shipments, but I'm a bit skeptical

So you want to write | advice from , who writes + teaches , | Her most firm suggestion is "read your work aloud!"

Parenting + Play

Say Yes to Play | shares reasons is important + things can do to encourage it, w/ lots of references.

This is excellent to see: The Rise of the | | "The take-home message for municipalities is: Stop setting your bar at the level of the most anxious parent"

It’s come to this: A checkup with the pediatrician may soon include a prescription for more , says in summary by | I love it! |

StandUpAmericanGirlWhen Little Girls Are Mean: Helping Young Girls Handle Relational Aggression, w/ |  [I bought the book shown to the left for my daughter]

The big problem with rewarding kids for good grades and punishing them for bad ones - - they learn that parental love is based on outcomes, not good for +

Tips for Teachers to Start the Year + Build Community

How to Build Community: 10 Easy Tips | Kelli Smith had me at first tip: , , | Guest post

4 Ways to Create a Learner-Centered | Shouldn't we start w/ building the relationship between and ?

WontYouBeNeighborNever Too Old: Advice Educators Should Take from - + more

10 Tips for New from | Build relationships, ask questions, call w/ something positive + more |

My Is A Mess. How has changed his + after reading 's

Other School + Library Links

How to Spread among – guest post by via | Teach them not to hide their flaws, to start

In a mastery-based , understand where they need to focus |

MegabookOfFluencyMaking Kids Read Fast is NOT the Goal of Instruction; Making Meaning Is - Guest post by | "fluency is developed through practice" [Link to Rasinksi's book on fluency]

Are the Best Way to Teach ? Maybe Not. They can exacerbate achievement gaps ... unless the groups are fluid and focused on skills

I’m Not Sure We () are in the Responsibility Business: Deep Thoughts by on enforcement (or not) re: overdue books

The latest Colorado contagion: The four-day week | raises concerns, especially for younger kids + food insecure kids


BedtimeMath 'Story Time' Helps Kids Score Academic Goals | Practice is key, making more fun can help |


If Students Aren't Trying on International Tests, Can We Still Compare Countries' Results? - |

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Mathematical Milestone: Wowed by the Power of Twos

MathMilestoneLast night my daughter was working on an assignment for school. She had to write her name in big letters and decorate it. The teacher is apparently going to put the names up on the wall, to mark off an area for displayed artwork in the classroom. In an effort to make hers more interesting, my daughter started adding little math equations around the border. I was kind of half listening as she counted out loud to herself: "Two plus two equals four, four plus four equal eight", etc. As she got up to "1024 + 1024 = 2048" I started to pay more attention.

When she got to the point where she couldn't add them in her head anymore I helped her by writing down the numbers so that she could add them:

+ 8192


Old school math. Carry the one, etc. 

Quite soon she started marveling at how large the numbers were getting. She ran out of room at 131,072, which (I had to check this) is 2 to the 17th power. I told her that this what she was doing (multiplying by two again and again), and that yes, you end up with very big numbers that way. We looked up what power gets you to a million. And she said, unprompted: "I am wowed by the power of twos." She was a bit giddy with the excitement of the whole thing, to the point of disturbing my husband, who was trying to work himself. But I loved it. And he loved it, too, once he realized what was going on. 

She ended up deciding to keep that version of her name and do a different one for the classroom wall, but she took the power of two page in to school this morning to show to her teacher and classmates. This is joy of learning, my friends. When a kid just starts noodling around and discovers something that she thinks is cool. [Hey, if you just keep doubling numbers, you get to really big numbers quite quickly. Cool!] You never know where such opportunities will arise, but you can certainly notice and encourage them when they do.   

Thanks for reading! I hope that some of you will find this little anecdote enjoyable. 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 29: Back-To-School Edition

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have two book reviews (one picture book and one YA) and three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of tons on reading-related news. I also have a guest post from Mrs. P. about her 10th Annual Be-A-Famous Writer Contest. I'm hoping to have more literacy milestones for you next time. I think that the start of the school year will trigger some... 

Reading Update:  In the last three weeks I finished three middle grade and four adult titles. I read/listened to: 

  • Paul Noth: How To Properly Dispose of Planet Earth. Bloomsbury Children's Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed August 25, 2018, print ARC. Review to come, closer to publication.
  • Skulduggery1Derek Landy: Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 1. HarperCollins Children's Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed August 26, 2018, print review copy. Review scheduled for next week. 
  • Patti Kelley Criswell (ill. Angela Martini): Stand Up for Yourself & Your Friends: Dealing with Bullies & Bossiness and Finding a Better Way. AmericanGirl. Early Middle Grade Nonfiction. Completed August 27, 2018. This is a well-done little book designed to help girls to cope with bullies and meanness, and to avoid such behavior themselves. I bought it for my daughter but read it myself first, and I do recommend it for early elementary age kids (it's pretty simplistic so I doubt it would capture the interest of kids above about 10). 
  • Charles Murray: Coming Apart. Crown Forum. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 18, 2018, on Kindle. I read this book as part of my quest to understand the bifurcation of America. In this case,  because of a what was available for survey data, Murray looks specifically at ways that whites have diverged over the years under a variety of metrics (education, community involvement, marriage, single parenthood, etc.). It was a good companion read to Hillbilly Elegy, which I read earlier in the year. 
  • Craig A. Falconer: Not Alone: Second Contact. Amazon. Adult Science Fiction. Completed August 20, 2018, on MP3. This was a sequel to a science fiction story that I enjoyed, and I thought it had a satisfactory ending. It probably could have been edited down a bit, but as length is a plus for me in audiobooks I didn't mind. 
  • Arne Duncan: How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation's Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education. Simon & Schuster. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 23, 2018, on Kindle. I found this book quite readable, and I appreciated Duncan's willingness to call out many of the lies that we collectively tell ourselves about our education system. I found his prescriptions for what to do to improve the school system to be not too slanted towards more big, government programs, and thus unrealistically expensive, but I did think his heart is in the right place. 
  • Ted Dintersmith: What Schools Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers across America. Princeton University Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 26, 2018, on Kindle. This book, about an entrepreneur who spent a year traveling around the US looking for innovative schools and districts, is in many ways the opposite of Duncan's book. [Outside vs. Insider, anti-(most) testing vs. pro-(some) testing, deeply skeptical of- Race to the Top vs. creator of Race to the Top, etc.). Dintersmith's heart is in the right place, too. His issue is more a question of whether his suggestions for local, grassroots change can be scaled up enough to make a difference. He definitely has some inspiring examples, though. 

TalkingAcrossDivideI also listened to about 40% of Scythe by Neal Shusterman, but I just didn't like it and I stopped. Too bleak for me these days, though I suspect I would have loved it a few years back. I'm listening to Heaven's Keep by William Kent Kruger (Cork O'Connor Mysteries, Book 9). I'm reading Talking Across the Divide by Justin Lee on my Kindle, and Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes in print (ARC). 

I'm continuing to read mainly picture books to my daughter. We are making our way through a lot of our old favorites and it's been quite enjoyable. This morning we read The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool and Alison JayYou can see some of those favorites in her reading list here. On her own, she continues to resist reading any of the books for her school's upcoming Battle of the Books, even though she says that she's interested in being on a team with several friends. I think she just really doesn't like being told what to read. And none of them are graphic novels, or even particularly heavily illustrated, so they just aren't her thing. But when she's left alone to read graphic novels and notebook novels she reads ALL THE TIME. To the point where it's hard to get her out of the house for, well, anything. 

KristysBigDayShe did have an excellent reading day yesterday, when not one but two of her favorite series had new releases. I have a video of her joy when she got home to find the newest Babysitters Club Graphic Novel, Kristy's Big Day AND the third Lucy and Andy Neanderthal book, Bad to the Bones, by Jeffrey Brown. She lifted me off the ground with her hug, making my choice to pre-order both books well worthwhile. The downside of graphic novels is that she's already read them both. However, I am confident that she will re-read them both many times. 

WimpyKidCabinFeverShe started third grade last week. She filled out a little "getting to know you" sheet for her teacher with heavy emphasis on reading and writing. Her teacher also asked my husband and me what our goals are for her this academic year. My number one goal is that she continues to LOVE reading. I'm going to do everything in my power to support that at home, of course. She brought home a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book from her classroom library on day 1, read it, and took it back the next day, so we are off to a good start.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! Hope that your summer reading is going as well as ours is!

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Guest Post: Mrs. P's 10th Annual Be-A-Famous Writer Contest

Today I share a guest post from my Twitter friend @MrsPStorytime. I know personally kids who have enjoyed this writing contest, and thought that my readers would find the information useful. 

Mrs. P Shares some exciting news about her 10th annual Be-a-Famous Writer contest for K-4 students

Thank you for providing the opportunity to share some exciting news! It’s the 10th year of my annual Be-a-Famous Writer Contest and also my FREE literacy website So many amazing stories have been written by classrooms all across the United States over this time. SO many, I’ve lost count. But what I haven’t lost count of are the teachers who in my book are Heroes, for bringing this project into their classroom.

I was trying to come up with a fun and exciting theme for kids to write about, and know that kids are fascinated by superheroes, with their extraordinary powers and awesome adventures. AND we also celebrate the lives of real-life heroes —fireman, policeman, athletes, activists, and for me it’s librarians and teachers,— the role models we look up too.


So, that is how I selected the theme of my 10th annual writing contest. This year students will write about Heroes!

Children’s literacture is just filled with heroes. There are characters that remain memorable more than a century after their first appearance, with Little Women's Jo March and Anne of Green Gables' Anne Shirley. And let’s not forget Harry Potter, or Black Beauty and even Paddington Bear.   There are so many examples of books with heroes for kids to read to prepare for the contest. Heroes can be people or animals.

K-4 students will have their stories read by my incredible judges. This year I have Mia Wenjen, who is a children’s literature advocate with her blog Pragmatic Mom, she’s the co founder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, and also an author herself! And Colby Sharp a teacher, the co-founder of Nerdy Book Club and the literacy conference Nerd Camp. and co-host of the children's literature podcast The Yarn. He just published “The Creativity Project”. I also read all of the stories!

Here’s the important information!

The contest opens on October 15 and close on December 15th.

The contest is free to enter! It’s for K-4 classrooms in the United States. Teachers can have their class either write a story collaboratively, or have students write individually and then have their class vote on which entry to submit. There’s only 1 entry allowed per class. Teachers can find the rules at my contest page

A special trailer for students was made by some extraordinary 5th graders in Atlanta. So teachers and parents can share this trailer with their K-4 writers. 

And of course, there is a promo for the teachers, so they know about the amazing sponsors who will support many literacy efforts. They help fill the winning classrooms with books in every format, as well as some other technology to help students be creative. Mackin Educational Resources, Tales2GO, Powell's Books, Flipgrid, and Buncee.

I’ve also rounded up more prizes than ever this year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the contest! The past author judges are providing books and Simon and Schuster is giving me books. Yes, books from Chris Grabenstein, Peter Reynolds, Josh Funk, Bonny Becker, and Shannon McClintock Miller! So many books for classrooms!

Books from mrps p judges.001

So, I hope your readers will bookmark this post. I hope parents will share it with their schools, and I hope teachers will find a bit of time to unlock the power of the imagination in their students with my writing contest.

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 24: #LeveledBooks, #Homework, #Introversion, and Impact of #ScreenTime

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BerenstainBears, #BookLists, #ClassroomLibraries, #HigherEd, #Introversion, #JoyOfReading, #math, #MentalHealth, #Nonfiction, #PictureBooks, #reading, #ScreenTime, #SocialMedia, #STEM, board books, charter schools, horror, parenting, schools, teachers, and teens. 

Top Tweets of the Week

CamJansenClassroom Leveled Libraries Should Be a Thing of the Past. Here are 5 reasons why. | I especially like: "Making their own choices empowers students" (w/ reference)

This is heartbreaking. Boy lost his b/c of being limited to strictly , w/ plea to to: "allow kids to choose books in an authentic manner + allow them to fall in love with books again"

Book Lists

10 Books to Help Get Your Kids Ready for or by

GoodnightMoonThe Top 100 Poll Countdown: #5 – 1! — | 5 books that deserve their classic status and should be on every baby's shelf

The Best Books to Tackle Common Growing Up Challenges (too much TV, etc.) by | My 8 y.o. still loves the BBs.

About Mighty Girls Who Love | from

DollBones for Kids Today: Post-Goosebumps Scare Fests — A current from

RA RA Read: and Easy titles, suggestions by author and title from Jennifer Wharton

Early for Kids with Characters | another featuring

Growing Bookworms

please read this post by on what to do after getting rid of | "Our job as teachers is not to police reading, it is to support the " | "actually makes them dislike reading"

This 4-Year-Old's Passionate Speech About Will Make You Want To Be A Book Nerd "I personally read every day, and absolutely love the adventure of reading"

Top 10 Reasons Should Read More Whole Books and Fewer Passages + Packets | | , + more |

AllAboutTheBooksThe Power of Listening to Stories Together by | Imagine how would travel through the if periodically the custodian, the librarian, ... or the school secretary sat down in class during

What resources would you suggest for professional book studies on ? has a partial list inc. + but seeks others


Critics warn that well-meaning reforms may be lowering the quality of |

How to Get the Most Out of College: "optimal ways to socialize, to prioritize, to pick up skills integral to any career and to open up exciting opportunities both en route to a degree and after"


HomeworkMythShould kids have ? The great debate. presents both sides , but me, I say a strong NO for kids


6 Strategies to Help Thrive at School and Feel Understood |

Why Many Love (and Shouldn't Stop, According to ) | , , lower stress levels and more


Happy Children Do Chores - "Children who help more at home feel a larger sense of obligation and connectedness to their parents + that connection helps them weather life’s stressful moments"

Screen Time and Reading/Learning

is Changing How Kids Read—Just Not in the Way That You Think | Lots of food for thought in this piece by on vs. print

IGenYes, teens are texting and using instead of books, researchers say | via | w/ tips for from

Why it matters that teens are fewer books + longform news articles, things that require critical thinking + reflection by

in the Can Hinder Long-Term Retention (+ exam performance), says recent study |


How Can Contribute To the Public Good? | Horizons is a public-private partnership trying to reduce the by giving low-income kids extra support

Poll: support for raising pay is up nationwide, but less so in CA. support + general funding support also up

Depressing but accurate: The California Squeeze threatens says |

Need . Their May Depend On It. | I've been using myself, and it does seem to help w/ + sleep

Be a hero and help those helping by buying them some urges Esther J. Cepeda |

Reclaiming a Sense of Joy | 8 simple, quick strategies for easing the stress of and remembering to take pleasure in the work

Why Do We Value Achievement Over ? A Wisconsin High School Senior Speaks Out

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian: Jacob Sager Weinstein and Vera Brosgol

Book: Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian
Author: Jacob Sager Weinstein
Illustrator: Vera Brosgol
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian, written by Jacob Sager Weinstein and illustrated by Vera Brosgol, is fabulous. The subtitle tells you all you need to know: "Saving the world with the right book at the right time!". It's basically a graphic novel in picture book format, which perhaps explains the excellent choice of Anya's Ghost and Be Prepared author Brosgol as the illustrator. Perhaps this also explains why my "I only read graphic novels and picture books" daughter adored it. 

An evil genius, Doctor Golckenspiel, escapes from the Depository for the Criminally Naughty. He demands a huge ransom from the world, otherwise his "army of giant moths will eat the world's books!!!". The world's best secret agents are sent in, but fail. It's up to someone "who loves books so much that she would risk her life to save them." 

Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian, using a giant book as a kite/parachute, sneaks in to the evil doctor's lair, bearing a set of books and a backpack full of disguises. She uses these to execute a carefully thought out plan involving distraction, misdirection, and information. For instance, disguised as a jail guard she provides the trapped secret agents with a book about how to pick locks, enabling them to escape. 

The story is told in panels, half page to full spread size, with boxed text from a narrator, and lots of speech bubbles. Like this:

"(Narrator:) But who was that janitor?
Who knew just the right book
to mop away boredom."

and this:

"And now that his plans, like his 
clothes, were in tatters ..."

It's a fun read-aloud, with lots of places to add dramatic emphasis. There's also humor, as when the bored security guard is distracted by a sewing book, and ends up doing embroidery. Brosgol's comic-like illustrations include some ethnic diversity, as well as plenty of multi-size shapes and unusual angles to add movement and drama. The evil doctor looks basically like a clown. Lyric's various costumes are hilarious.

One detail that my daughter noticed that I thought was a nice touch was the use of different colors around the dialog bubbles for the different characters (magenta for Lyric, etc.). This wasn't really necessary to follow the story, but it added something nevertheless. 

Overall, the mix of humor, drama, and celebration of books should make Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian a hit with teachers, librarians, and kids alike. It is certainly destined to be a favorite and a re-read in our house. Highly recommended, and a great addition to school and public library collections. 

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids) 
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 17: The #Cybils Awards, #BackToSchool Books, and #Homework Policies

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: #BoardBooks, #BookLists, #Cybils, #FancyNancy, #Homework, #IntrinsicMotivation, #LoveOfReading, #MentalHealth, #NCLB, #nonfiction, #parenting, #SchoolLibraries, #screentime, #STEM, #testing, libraries, play, publishing, reading aloud, schools, and of course back-to-school. 

Top Tweet of the Week

The Policy Every Early Childhood Class Should Have | help families build skills at home through and talking together

Book Lists + Awards

GoodnightGorillaThe Top 100 Poll Countdown has reached the top 10! Here are #10-6, including some of my family's favorites

2018 Roundup from Alex at

14 Books to Help Kids Get Ready for the New School Year | helping to ease fears+ remind them about fun | from

You’ve Missed Us, Haven’t You? | Just a head's up that the Awards team is working behind the scenes, and will be back soon with news + the call for panelists

Rosie-revere-and-the-raucous-rivertersTen and Transitional Not to Be Overlooked by + | We love in my house

RA RA Read: Go-to recommendations from + organizer Jennifer Wharton for Narrative

Alternative (less well-known) but still much Anticipated Children’s Books of Fall 2018 from

Growing Bookworms

Read Novels to Your Little Kid: " chapter books and novels aloud requires young listeners to use their imaginations w/out the guidance of zany illustrations. When they’re able to do so, they get hooked"

HarryPotter5SelznickThe wizarding world of data | via | Dad shares how his 1st grader showed low ability in because she was afraid her parents would stop to her if she read too well

How to Read to Kids: Tips for from + more |

"How can I teach (my ) to find satisfaction, happiness even, in the act of ". One answer, says , is to select the first classroom carefully

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Top Ten Favorite Book Blogs/Bookish Websites according to | + more great resources

FancyNancyAu Revoir, Nancy! A Children’s Book Author Kisses Her Character Goodbye -

Parenting + Mindset

How to Stop the Tween Confidence Drop By Helping Girls Take on Toxic Thinking |

7 Habits You'll Notice the Happiest People Practicing (but Most of Us Rarely Do) | |

SocialMediaWellnessHow to motivate older kids (teens + tweens) without using rewards, punishment or fear. (No, really.) |

Why it’s so hard to get kids’ attention vs. , according to (and what to do about it) - James Paterson

How to raise a happy kid in the digital age - |

RT @DTWillingham: "playing Fortnite is very similar to playing army men in the woods and building forts." Except you're not outside. And you're not moving your body. And often kids simply watch other kids playing Fortnite. And Fortnite has in-game purchases.

Schools and Libraries

The Most Effective Ways of Helping Students Love Learning | "Cultivate questions" + "pursue their passions" via |

DearZooBaby and toddler can create a lifetime | |

Collaborating With Your | 10 ways for to work with colleagues in the to enhance instruction | via

10 Easy Ways to Create an Awesome Culture – | "Lose the entourage", "Show appreciation daily" + more |

France Takes On With a Ban in Schools for kids up at age 15

"children learn best through , an understanding that has guided us to reenvision how our () children’s spaces could maximize children’s " | Editorial by via


Robotics workshop at Google for girls builds skills | "The goal of the initiative is to get more girls involved in and , , and , or fields, at an earlier age"


Pressuring to raise test scores got diminishing returns, new study of No Child Left Behind finds

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Imposters: Scott Westerfeld

Book: Imposters
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Pages: 416
Age Range: 12 and up

ImpostersImposters is a new book set in the world of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies/Pretties/Specials/Extras series (links go to my reviews), a generation or so after Tally Youngblood and her friends changed the world. Frey and Rafi are the motherless twin daughters of a powerful, ruthless ruler. Frey, the younger by 20-some minutes, is kept hidden. Only a few trusted advisors know of her existence. Her role is to provide protection for her sister. She is trained to kill enemies, and poses as her sister in riskier public appearances. Rafi is the public face, focused on politics, society, and her appearance. Despite their different roles, the two sisters are close, viewing themselves as two sides of the same knife. 

Imposters is Frey's story, however. When the leader of a rival city asks for a "visit" from Rafi, as a guarantee of safety during a business arrangement, Frey is sent in Rafi's place. Separated from her sister for the first time, and living more publicly (though incognito) than she has before, Frey blossoms. She develops an alliance, and possibly more, with rival scion Col Parafox. Then violence ensues and Frey and Col find themselves in peril and on the run. 

Imposters is the first of a new four-book series, and ends on something of a cliffhanger. The tone of Imposters is similar to that of the Uglies series, though the world has changed significantly in the aftermath of Tally's overthrow of the Pretties regime. Westerfeld explores the fact that freedom isn't the same as utopia. Corrupt leaders can arise. Tensions can flare. Scarce resources can cause conflict.

There are references to the pre-Pretties civilization (Rusties = our world), and there are rebels who long for the return of Tally Youngblood. As in the Uglies books, there are advanced technologies for surgery and generation of food and clothing. There are also advanced technologies for spying, and avoiding being spied upon. There are echoes of the Hunger Games series as well as the Uglies series (calorie blockers, for instance, to allow people to eat to excess).

But the premise of being a hidden twin, who no one knows about, is fresh and compelling. Frey is a strong protagonist, physically and mentally, one who is easy to root for. I found Col a little bit of an enigma, but hope to see his personality fleshed out more in future installments, along with those of some of the supporting characters. 

Imposters is a fast-paced read. I tore through it in a day. I didn't mind the unresolved ending because I was expecting it, but I do look forward to the next book. It's not necessary to re-read the Uglies series first to follow Imposters. Westerfeld provides just enough background to refresh the reader's memory. But it certainly couldn't hurt, for those who like to prepare. It's an engaging world in which to spend time. I am certain that fans of the Uglies series will enjoy Imposters, as will anyone who likes reading about Machiavellian conflicts set in future worlds. Recommended!

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).